Photo/IllutrationTakanohana leaves a news conference room in Tokyo on Sept. 25 after announcing he was retiring from the sumo world as stablemaster. (Soichiro Yamamoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

In a long-running battle outside the dohyo, the Japan Sumo Association accused former yokozuna Takanohana of lying about the pressure he said he was under to do the organization’s bidding.

“While he said pressure was applied on him, there is absolutely no truth to that,” Shibatayama, the JSA official in charge of public relations, said at a news conference on Sept. 25.

Earlier in the day, Takanohana, arguably the most popular yokozuna of the Heisei Era (1989-present), held a news conference to announce his retirement as a stablemaster.

He also said he interpreted various moves by the JSA to mean that the only way he would be allowed to remain a stablemaster was to admit that a complaint he filed in March with the Cabinet Office was “totally false” and then join one of five “ichimon,” or groups of related stables.

The complaint said the JSA was biased in its investigation into yokozuna Harumafuji’s beating of Takanoiwa, one of Takanohana’s top disciples, during a drinking session in October last year.

Harumafuji retired as yokozuna following that incident, and the JSA removed Takanohana as a director in January for the delay in informing the association of the beating as well as refusing to allow Takanoiwa to cooperate with the investigation.

Two months later, Takanohana submitted the complaint about the JSA to the Cabinet Office, but he withdrew it two weeks later.

However, Takanohana suggested that the JSA was not satisfied and came up with another move to force him into a corner.

According to a number of stablemasters, the JSA in July agreed in a directors’ meeting that all stablemasters would have to belong to one of the five existing ichimon.

Takanohana at one time set up his own ichimon, but the name of the group was changed in June after he was demoted as a sumo elder to take responsibility for an assault by one of his disciples of an attendant.

After the July JSA agreement, all unaffiliated stablemasters--except Takanohana--signed up with one of the major ichimon, leading to his further isolation.

Shibatayama said there was no truth to Takanohana’s claim that the JSA applied pressure so that he would not be allowed to join an ichimon unless he admitted his complaint was false.

Shibatayama went on to explain that other stablemasters tried a number of times to persuade Takanohana to join their group, but those efforts were in vain.

Having won the Emperor's Cup 22 times, Takanohana was given the rare privilege by the JSA of keeping his ring name when he became a stablemaster. But the name cannot be handed down to disciples like other names for stablemasters.

This means that if the JSA allows Takanohana to retire, the stable name will also disappear with his departure from the sumo world.

Shibatayama said the association had not formally accepted Takanohana’s request to resign because of procedural errors in the document.